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  • Conflict Prevention: Toward More Effective Multilateral Strategies

    DECEMBER 2011Christoph Mikulaschek and Paul Romita, rapporteurs

    I N T E R N AT I O N A L P E AC E I N S T I T U T E

  • Cover Photo: Sudanese in Mukjar,

    West Darfur, await the arrival of

    Ibrahim Gambari, Joint Special

    Representative for the African Union-

    United Nations Hybrid Operation in

    Darfur (UNAMID). Mr. Gambari and

    his team visited Mukjar following the

    Fourth Special Envoys Retreat, El

    Geneina, West Darfur. October 20,

    2011. ©UN Photo/Olivier Chassot.

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in

    this paper represent those of the

    rapporteurs and not necessarily those of IPI or seminar participants. IPI

    welcomes consideration of a wide

    range of perspectives in the pursuit

    of a well-informed debate on critical

    policies and issues in international


    IPI Publications

    Adam Lupel, Editor and Senior Fellow Marie O’Reilly, Publications Officer

    Suggested Citation

    Christoph Mikulaschek and Paul

    Romita, rapporteurs, “Conflict Prevention: Toward More Effective

    Multilateral Strategies,” New York:

    International Peace Institute,

    December 2011.

    © by International Peace Institute,


    All Rights Reserved


    CHRISTOPH MIKULASCHEK was a Senior Policy Analyst at

    IPI at the time of the seminar. He is currently a Ph.D.

    student at Princeton University’s Department of Politics.

    PAUL ROMITA was a Policy Analyst at IPI at the time of the

    seminar. He is currently a Research Analyst at Security

    Council Report.


    IPI owes a debt of thanks to its many donors, whose

    support makes publications like this one possible. In partic-

    ular, IPI would like to thank the governments of Finland,

    Norway, and Sweden for their generous contributions to

    the 2011 New York Seminar.


    Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

    Introduction: Multilateral Conflict Prevention . . . . . . 2

    Early Warning and Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    Preventive Diplomacy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4



    Structural Prevention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10



    Coherence and Coordination in Conflict Prevention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14




    Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

    Annex: Case Studies in Conflict Prevention . . . . . . . 19




    Agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

  • 1

    Executive Summary

    Ten years ago the United Nations Secretary- General reasoned that “the time has come to intensify our efforts to move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.”1 In 2005, heads of state and government at the United Nations World Summit “solemnly renew[ed] [their] commitment to promote a culture of prevention of armed conflict.”2 To what extent have the United Nations (UN) and the international community more broadly, turned their aspiration for a culture of prevention into a reality? How well do multilat- eral instruments for conflict prevention perform today? What challenges exist in tapping into their full potential, and how can these challenges be addressed?

    These questions were discussed at the International Peace Institute’s (IPI) sixteenth New York Seminar between May 4 and 6, 2011. For this seminar, IPI brought together representatives of fifty-seven states and international organizations, as well as independent experts and academics, on the grounds of the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. The goal of the meeting was to engage diplomats, UN officials, and independent experts in an informal and stimulating discussion on ways to enhance the effectiveness of multilateral conflict-prevention strategies. The seminar featured an address by Ambassador Vijay Nambiar, the chef de cabinet of the UN Secretary-General.

    This meeting report presents a synthesis of the discussions at the seminar and summarizes key recommendations made by participants at the meeting.3 It finds:

    • Multilateral conflict prevention has undergone significant change in recent years.

    • Capabilities, working methods, and the normative framework for multilateral conflict prevention have evolved considerably in response to greater receptiveness by many states facing conflict risks and increasing preparedness by third parties to engage in preventive diplomacy and structural prevention.

    • This trend has been accompanied by a prolifera- tion of the number of third states, international organizations and nongovernmental organiza- tions undertaking preventive action.

    • Achieving coordination and coherence among these numerous third parties in their pursuit of preventive goals constitutes a critical challenge. Following an overview of the concept and politics

    of multilateral conflict prevention, the report identifies timely and accurate early warning and assessment as a precondition for successful early action, and analyzes recent developments, shortcomings, and potential paths for two sets of tools for multilateral conflict prevention, namely preventive diplomacy and structural prevention. It then addresses coherence and coordination in contemporary conflict-prevention efforts. Finally, an annex presents three case studies of recent and ongoing efforts to prevent conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Kyrgyzstan. This report does not aim to provide an exhaustive survey of multilateral conflict-prevention efforts around the world. It focuses on conflict prevention at the UN, but also explores the evolving role of other actors in this field, including individual states, regional organiza- tions, and nonstate actors.

    1 United Nations Secretary-General, Prevention of Armed Conflict, UN Doc. A/55/985–S/2001/574, June 7, 2001, para. 169. 2 UN General Assembly Resolution 60/1 (October 24, 2005), 2005 World Summit Outcome, UN Doc. A/RES/60/1, para. 74. 3 In accordance with the Chatham House rule under which the seminar was conducted, no identification is provided of the speakers who presented particular ideas.


    Introduction: Multilateral Conflict Prevention

    Conflict prevention has been among the core functions of the UN since its inception. Article 1(1) of the UN Charter states that the first purpose of the UN is to “maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the princi- ples of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

    The theory and practice of multilateral conflict prevention has gradually evolved in response to evolving conflict trends and changing geopolitical constellations. During the Cold War, the main goal of conflict prevention by the UN was to “keep newly arising conflicts outside the sphere of bloc differ- ences.”4 The removal of the shackles of the Cold War led to a significant increase in multilateral efforts to mitigate the risk of future conflict, avoid the escala- tion of ongoing conflict, and forestall relapse into conflict during the volatile period after mass violence. Gradually, a broader and more coherent conflict-prevention agenda emerged. The 1997 report of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict5 and the UN Secretary-General’s report on conflict prevention of 20016 describe two distinct modes of conflict prevention: operational prevention, which refers to relatively short-term efforts to forestall incipient or escalating violence, and structural prevention, which refers to measures to address the root causes of conflict. This dichotomy is called into question by contemporary preventive action that increasingly seeks to create synergies between short-term political engagement (such as official negotiation and mediation efforts)

    and more long-term efforts to strengthen national, local, and regional conflict-prevention capacities. This follows the realization that success in confronting acute crises (operational prevention) typically requires sustained engagement with the conflicting parties, and that efforts to address the root causes of conflict (structural prevention) should be designed to have an observable positive impact already in the medium term. In recent years, the concept of systemic prevention was coined as the third component of a comprehensive prevention agenda. It refers to measures to address global risk factors, which stem from transnational actions that adversely affect conflict risks in multiple world regions.7

    IPI’s sixteenth New York Seminar took place against the backdrop of renewed interest in multilateral conflict prevention among UN entities and


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